Track Reports

Saratoga Notes: Jerkens Impressed With Shaman Ghost in G1 Woodward

Shaman Ghost (center) wins G1 Woodward over Frosted (left) - Credit Chelsea Durand/NYRA
Chelsea Durand/NYRA

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Trainer Jimmy Jerkens reported that Shaman Ghost is in good shape Sunday morning following his head victory over Mubtaahij and Frosted in Saturday’s Grade 1 Woodward.

“He’s fine. He walked good this morning,” said Jerkens.

Breaking the seven-figure mark in earnings, Shaman Ghost picked up his first Grade 1 and sixth career victory, which also includes stakes wins in the Grade 3 Marine and Queens Plate at Woodbine last year and the Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap at Belmont Park earlier this spring, to amass lifetime earnings of $1,292,811. Although the 4-year-old Ghostzapper colt has raced on the dirt at distances ranging from seven furlongs to 1 ½ miles, the Woodward was Shaman Ghost’s first attempt at 1 1/8 miles – an attempt that even impressed his veteran trainer.

“It was good to see him throw in a good mile and an eighth yesterday, because it is different from the other big races that he’s won,” said Jerkens. “Yesterday, at the far turn, the pace started to quicken and he had to be right there with them to do it. Javier [Castellano] got after him and he responded, so it was really good to see that instead of staying in that same lope all the way. He’s always been game. If you look at his form, even last year, he’s relentless. He showed us a lot yesterday, that’s for sure.”

Jerkens added that Shaman Ghost could be possible to make his next start in the Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational at Belmont on October 8, a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 5 at Santa Anita.

“[It’s] not definite, but would have to consider it for sure,” he said of the Gold Cup. “It’s the next logical step; the big purse that it is, plus the mile and a quarter. Distance isn’t a problem for him so long as he gets in a nice rhythm the whole way.”

It’s not over ’til it’s over…

The battle for meet-end honors for owners, trainers and jockeys has come down to the final two days of action at Saratoga Race Course.

Heading into Sunday’s card, owner Michael Dubb led Klaravich Stables, 12-10, but the latter appears well-positioned for a late rally. While Dubb closes out his meet on Sunday with two entries, Klaravich and partner William Lawrence have three entered on Sunday and four on closing day, including Takeover Target, 3-1 in the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch, and Practical Joke, 3-1 in the Grade 1 Hopeful.

Todd Pletcher had two winners on Saturday to make a dent in Chad Brown’s lead among trainers, 37-29, and both have a number of live horses scheduled to run on Sunday and Monday. Pletcher has 16 entered over the two days, including Off the Tracks, 5-2 in Sunday’s Grade 2 Prioress, while Brown, who was blanked on Saturday, has 14 entries, among them Takeover Target, 3-1 on Monday’s Grade 2 Bernard Baruch, and Practical Joke, 3-1 in the Grade 1 Hopeful.

Pletcher has won 12 overall training titles, which are named after the late Hall of Fame trainer H. Allen Jerkens, including six in a row. Brown, of nearby Mechanicville, New York, has finished second the past six years.

After posting a five-win day on Saturday, Jose Ortiz held a commanding nine-win advantage over his older brother, defending meet champion Irad Ortiz, Jr., with 61 victories in the race for the Angel Cordero, Jr. jockey title.

Jose is scheduled to ride in 9 races on Sunday and nine on Monday, including the Brown-rained Takeover Target in the Bernard Baruch and Practical Joke in the Hopeful.

Irad has mounts in all 12 races on Sunday and 11 races on Monday, among them Classic Empire, 5-2 on the morning line in the Hopeful.

As Jose Ortiz pointed out following his victory aboard Suffused in Saturday’s Glens Falls: “There’s still two days of racing, 12 races on Sunday, and 11 on Monday. Anything can happen. But I like my position.”

Frosted, Mubtaahij in good order following 2-3 Woodward finish

Stablemates Mubtaahij and Frosted came out of their respective 2-3 finishes in the Grade 1 Woodward in good order, said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin Sunday morning.

McLaughlin noted that he was far from discouraged by Frosted’s effort as the 2-5 favorite, in which the 4-year-old Tapit colt appeared poised to strike in the stretch under a hand ride from Joel Rosario but couldn’t get to the wire in time to finish a close third behind his stablemate and winner Shaman Ghost.

“He carried six more pounds than Mubtaahij, four more pounds than the winner and ran 40 feet further than the winner,” said McLaughlin. “So we feel like he was the best horse, but it’s horse racing – he got beat.”

“He didn’t break sharp and that changed everything,” he added. “He doesn’t like the whip so that’s why he didn’t hit him. A lot of people were probably wondering why, but he doesn’t like the whip.”

Plans for Frosted’s next start have yet to be determined, McLaughlin said. The Godolphin Racing color-bearer is already armed with all-fees-paid berths into both the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic and the $1 million Las Vegas Dirt Mile at Santa Anita on November 4-5.

Mubtaahij, meanwhile, will be pointed to the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational next month following his impressive runner-up effort.

“Mubtaahij ran great – he ran 43 feet further than the winner,” McLaughlin reported. “It was unlucky that didn’t win but they ran a winning race, both of them did. [Mubtaahij] wants the mile and a quarter at Belmont so he’ll run back.”

Tepin to work Monday; Casse finds success on dirt

Tepin, the defending Eclipse Award Champion Grass Mare for trainer Mark Casse, will work Monday morning at Saratoga as she prepares for her next start in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile on September 17, assistant trainer Norm Casse said. Tepin has won seven straight races, including a victory in the Group 1 Queen Anne at Royal Ascot last out on June 14.

“She’s doing really well; we’ll work her tomorrow morning and then bring her back on Sunday to work her an easy half [mile] and she should be ready for the Woodbine,” Casse said. “This morning was probably the best she’s had since she’s been here. We’re excited about the possibility of showcasing her there.”

Pretty City Dancer came out of her graded stakes debut in good order, Casse said. The 2-year-old hit the wire simultaneously with Sweet Loretta for a dead heat in the Grade 1, $350,000 Spinaway yesterday, extending her winning streak to three.

Norm Casse said Pretty City Dancer, a Tapit filly, is being pointed towards the Grade 1, $400,000 Darley Alcibiades on October 7 at Keeneland.

“We’re really excited about yesterday,” he said.

Pretty City Dancer was one of two Casse-trained winners on the dirt yesterday, joining Casses Story in a maiden special weight in Race 7. The Live Oak Plantation-owned Bernardini colt will look to make his stakes debut in the Grade 3 Iroquois on September 17 at Churchill Downs, Casse said.

After entering the day carrying a 1-for-34 record on Saratoga dirt races the last five years, Casse said the difference has been additional time spent at the Spa. Both winners had four breezes on main track before finding the winner’s circle.

“I think we’re starting to figure things out, this place has a real homefield advantage, so if you come up here late like we do, I think you’re at a little bit of a disadvantage,” Casse said. “These horses have been here for awhile now and had multiple breezes. I think that’s the big difference. Most of our stats are based on the fact that we come up here and run after just one work and they kind of get buried. But we’re figuring it out.”

Catch a Glimpse is being rested ahead of the Grade 1, $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup on October 15 at Keeneland. The 2015 Sovereign Award 2015 Champion 2 Year Old Filly came in second in the Grade 2 Lake Placid on August 21 and is 5-1-0 in six starts in 2016, all against graded stakes company. Catch a Glimpse, owned by Windways Farm, won the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational on July 9, adding to an impressive resume that includes a win in the 2015 Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.

“We gave her a bit of a freshener, she’s not going to work this week,” Casse said. “We’re giving her a break. The Queen Elizabeth has always been our long-term goal.”

Sweet Loretta handles stretch out in distance

Sweet Loretta improved to 3-for-3 in her career when she finished in a dead heat with Pretty City Dancer in the Spinaway. Trainer Todd Pletcher said the 2-year-old, who is also a Tapit filly, tired slightly in running seven furlongs for the first time but handled the step up in class coming out of a victory in the Grade 3 Schuylerville on July 22.

“She’s handled each step up in class and stretch out in distance,” Pletcher said. “She was getting a little bit tired at the end of the race but that was to be expected. She was stalking some fairly solid fractions. We’ve always been optimistic that she’ll continue to stretch out.”

Pletcher, who has won multiple graded stakes each year since 1998, said it was the first time he had a horse dead heat for first in a Grade 1.

“It’s hard to tell sometimes from the stands. I wasn’t sure if she got her head down or not,” Pletcher said. “I thought we had a good head bob. I could tell it was taking awhile, so I could tell it would possibly be a dead heat. It’s a lot to process in a short period of time.”

Photo Call led the Grade 3 Glens Falls up until the stretch before finishing fourth. Pletcher said she came out of the race in good order after serving as a pacesetter for the second consecutive race after also leading early fractions in the Grade 3 Fasig-Tipton Waya on August 6.

“Photo Call ran well considering she couldn’t quite hold off some late challenges,” Pletcher said. “It wasn’t necessarily our strategy [to set the pace], but she broke so alertly and there was really no other pace, so we did the best we could.”

Stablemate Itsonlyactingdad finished seventh in the Glens Falls after being boxed in at the start.

“She came out of it well,”Pletcher said. “She got squeezed back at the start and lost all of her position at that point. Despite that, I thought she ran a sneaky good race.”

Stanford, who has not run since finishing eighth in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap on June 11, is training at Stonestreet Farms in Ocala, Florida. Pletcher said he will see about starting him in the Sunshine State at some point in the next few weeks.

Suffused exits G3 Glens Falls in good shape

Juddmonte Farms’ Suffused has exited her three-quarter-length victory in the Grade 3 Glens Falls on Saturday in good order, according to Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott Sunday morning.

Arriving stateside earlier this year, the 4-year-old British-bred daughter of Champs Elysees had found her way to the winner’s circle in her third start for Mott’s stable, taking the Belmont Coronation by 4 ¾ lengths in June. Earlier this meet, Suffused turned in a game runner-up effort in the Grade 3 Waya, beaten a head by Guapaza, who finished sixth in the Glens Falls.

“She’s coming along well since we started her earlier in the spring,” said Mott. She’s had three very good races in a row. She won at Belmont and now a win and a second up here, so she’s progressed nicely.”

Mott reported that Prize Fight, a late scratch in Saturday’s third race, emerged from his exploits unscathed. The 2-year-old first-time starter by Tiznow unseated jockey Joel Rosario in the post parade, eluded outriders and jumped the outside rail and ran loose the backside before being apprehended.

“He’s fine,” he said. “He doesn’t even realize anything happened.”

Baker reflects on summer success at the Spa

Riding high coming off a notable spring meet at Belmont Park in which he captured his first graded stakes victory as an owner and trainer with 7-year-old Joking in the Grade 2 True North, Charlton Baker came into the summer meet at Saratoga with modest expectations but leaves feeling more than fulfilled accomplishing his most successful meet as a trainer on racing’s biggest stage.

Saddling 10 winners and four second-place finishers from 34 starters for the meet, Baker has racked up an impressive win rate striking at 29 percent. With one remaining entry for the meet in Sing for Beauty for Monday’s Labor Day holiday card, Baker remained modest but proud of the work he and his team have done this summer.

“It’s been a great meet. Super,” said Baker. “Coming in I was thinking we were going to do okay, but not as good as we actually did.”

Making his first trip to the winner’s circle this summer with 9-year-old Moonlight Song returning from a one-year layoff to win the John Morrissey Stakes for the second consecutive year, Baker considered that moment to be the highlight of his summer.

“The highlight of the meet for me was our victory with Moonlight Song in the John Morrissey,” added Baker. “It was our first victory of the meet and coming back off a year layoff it was really special.”

Long respected among his fellow horseman and garnering more attention following his success at Saratoga this summer, Baker was hoping to keep the momentum going heading into the upcoming fall meet at Belmont.

“Definitely I would consider this to be the most successful meet of my career,” said Baker. “We’ve had some big meets at Finger Lakes but on the big stage I would have to consider this my best since I’ve started training. Going forward we’re looking good heading to Belmont. We have some new horses so we figure we’ll be okay there too hopefully.”


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